1 NOTES DENYING ACCESS TO JUSTICE: THE COST OF APPLYING CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE Cari Fais Chronic nuisance laws impose fines or other sanctions on property owners based on the number of times police respond to the property. These ordinances aim to recover the cost of what the government considers to be excessive police service, and to encourage property owners to prevent criminal activity from occurring on the premises. This Note argues that domestic violence calls for police service should not trigger liability under chronic nuisance laws. Applying chronic nuisance laws to victims of intimate partner violence exacerbates the barriers that many victims already face in accessing housing, and blames the victim for criminal activity that she cannot control. Imposing sanctions that discourage domestic violence victims from calling the police is also incompatible with other government policies that address domestic violence, including mandatory arrest, evidence-based prosecution, and the housing protections in the Violence Against Women Act. This Note proposes several legal challenges to the application of chronic nuisance laws in domestic violence cases. It also explores legislative reforms that would protect victims access to the police, while still allowing local governments to target actual nuisance activity. INTRODUCTION Laurie s ex-boyfriend appeared at her home, uninvited, to retrieve some of his belongings. Once inside, he threw her to the ground and began to strangle her. Laurie s daughter, in fear for her mother s safety, called 911. The police responded and, despite the visible bruising around Laurie s neck, failed to arrest her boyfriend or remove him from the home. After the police left, Laurie s ex-boyfriend punched her in the face and ripped her ear. This time Laurie called the police. During their second response, the police informed Laurie, in front of the assailant, that since this was her second call for police service, a third call to the police would result in eviction from her apartment. 1 Laurie s landlord did not want to evict her and her children and considered Laurie to be a desirable tenant. 2 Nonetheless, the law in East Rochester states that upon the third call for police service, the town 1. Second Amended Complaint at 7 8, Grape v. Town/Village of East Rochester, No. 07 CV 6075 CJS (F) (W.D.N.Y. July 6, 2007). 2. Id. at
2 1182 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 108:1181 will revoke the rental dwelling permit and require the tenant to vacate the home. 3 City councils across the country are passing chronic nuisance laws. These laws authorize the city to fine or otherwise sanction owners of properties that require what the city considers to be excessive police service. 4 The ordinances are aimed at recovering the cost of the government s police response. Chronic nuisance laws have engendered strong reactions, ranging from unanimous support in local governments to vehement opposition, especially among property owners. 5 The governmen- 3. Id. at 9 (citing East Rochester, N.Y., Code of Ordinances ). 4. See, e.g., Beaverton, Or., Code ch (enacted July 21, 1998), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Cincinnati, Ohio, Municipal Code ch. 761 (effective Nov. 11, 2006), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Clackamas County, Or., Code ch (2002), available at clackamas.or.us/code.htm (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Coaldale, Pa., Ordinance of the Borough of Coaldale Establishing Reimbursement to the Borough of Coaldale for Costs, Expenses, and Fees Associated with the Coaldale Borough Police Department (Mar. 14, 2006); Freeport, Ill., Code ch. 659 (enacted Dec. 12, 2005), available at reeportillinois?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:freeport_il (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Green Bay, Wis., Code (published online 2006), available at (last visited Apr. 6, 2008) (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Janesville, Wis., City Ordinance ch (2008), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Kankakee, Ill., Code (passed Aug. 19, 1996), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Milwaukee, Wis., Code (2007), available at cctv25.milwaukee.gov/code/volume1/ch80.pdf (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Mundelein, Ill., Municipal Code ch (2004), available at mundel/ (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Phillipsburg, N.J., Code ch. 441 (adopted Mar. 1, 2005), available at =ws&cb=0098_a (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Pittsburgh, Pa., Code of Ordinances ch. 670 (effective Feb. 15, 2005), available at resources/gateway.asp?pid=13525&sid=38 (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Portland, Or., City Code ch. 14B.60 (2008), available at index.cfm?c=28531 (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Tigard, Or., Code ch (2003), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Village of Wauconda, Ill., Code (2008), available at illinoiscodeofordinance?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:wauconda_il (on file with the Columbia Law Review); Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Code of Ordinances 7-236(i), 7-237, (adopted Feb. 24, 2005), available at gateway.asp?pid=14407&sid=38 (on file with the Columbia Law Review); York, Pa., Code art (2007), available at PDF% %20Codified%20Ordinances/Part%2017%20-%20Building%20&%20 Housing.pdf (on file with the Columbia Law Review); see also Nev. Rev. Stat (2007). 5. See, e.g., Ann Belser, Clairton: Nuisance Tenants Can Cost Landlord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Apr. 20, 2005, at S4 ( After council voted [to approve the chronic nuisance law], City Manager Ralph Imbrogno clapped. ); Greg J. Borowski, Officials Back Fines for Repeat Nuisance Calls, Milwaukee J. Sentinel, Dec. 14, 2000, at 3B [hereinafter Borowski,
3 2008] APPLYING CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS 1183 tal objectives are described in a pamphlet explaining Milwaukee s chronic nuisance code to the general public: The Chronic Nuisance Property Code says to property owners, in effect, If you do not take action to try to stop these nuisances from recurring, then you and not the taxpayers will pay the cost of the police that must respond This Note examines the gendered impact of chronic nuisance laws, focusing on the effect of such laws on victims of domestic violence. Part I explains the features of the chronic nuisance codes, using examples from several jurisdictions, and places them in a broader context of laws holding property owners and tenants responsible for criminal activity that occurs on the premises. Part II examines the effect chronic nuisance codes have on victims of intimate partner violence. It uses statistical evidence to show that laws that fine people for crime that occurs in the home will disproportionately burden victims of domestic violence, a group which consists mostly of women. Part II also explains why fining victims of domestic violence for police services is particularly harmful. Part III explores possible statutory and constitutional challenges to chronic nuisance codes. The Note argues that the application of chronic nuisance codes to domestic violence cases is dangerous, contrary to public policies on violence against women, and susceptible to both statutory and federal constitutional challenges. Finally, this Note concludes by offering proposals for legislative reforms that will protect victims of domestic violence from the harsh effects of chronic nuisance laws. Officials Back Fines] (describing unanimous support among all seventeen aldermen and mayor); John Diedrich, Program Takes Bite of Chronic Sources of Police Attention, Milwaukee J. Sentinel, Feb. 12, 2004, at 1B (noting support for chronic nuisance law among city block captains); Richard W. Funk, Coaldale Ordinance Will Prevent the Wasting of Policeman s Time, Times News, Mar. 15, 2006, at 1 ( I m opposing the ordinance that was published in the paper saying that people will have to pay for police services if they call too many times.... I don t see how calling a police officer should have to be covered (financially) by a resident who pays taxes. ); Ken O Brien, Law Aims to Curb Nuisance Homes, Chi. Trib. (South-Southwest), Apr. 22, 2005, at 6 (noting Joliet s chronic nuisance code passed unanimously); Nuisance Ordinance Passed by City Council, Monzel Rep. (Office of Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Monzel, Cincinnati, Ohio), Nov. 2006, at 1 (noting that Cincinnati s law passed unanimously); Telephone Interview with Lieutenant David Fink, Lieutenant in Charge of Planning, Cincinnati Police Dep t, in Cincinnati, Ohio (Jan. 30, 2007) (noting that ordinance was welcomed by city s Citizens on Patrol group). The most vocal opponents of the codes in several jurisdictions were landlords. See, e.g., Greg Borowski, Aldermen Approve Nuisance Ordinance, Milwaukee J. Sentinel, Jan. 17, 2001, at 3B (noting opposition to ordinance by landlords arguing that it unfairly targets landlords for the actions of a third party the tenant ); Dan Klepal, Rental Owners Protest New Law, Cincinnati Enquirer, Oct. 11, 2006, at 1C ( Apartment complex owners showed up [at city council meeting] in droves to express their concern over the law.... ). In Cincinnati, the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Apartment Association filed a legal challenge to prevent the enforcement of the chronic nuisance code. See Complaint, Greater Cincinnati & No. Ky. Apartment Ass n v. City of Cincinnati (Ct. Com. Pl., Hamilton County, Ohio Jan. 8, 2007) (on file with the Columbia Law Review). 6. Dep t of Neighborhood Servs., City of Milwaukee, City of Milwaukee Chronic Nuisance Property Code (2005) (on file with the Columbia Law Review).
4 1184 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 108:1181 I. CHRONIC NUISANCE CODES Chronic nuisance laws intertwine public nuisance doctrine and municipal privatization of public services. Part I.A explains how nuisance laws have been applied to property owners in attempts to abate criminal activity occurring on the property. It also provides a description of the privatization of municipal public services in general. It is against this background that Part I.B examines the specific features of chronic nuisance laws. A. History of Holding Property Owners and Tenants Responsible for Criminal Activity on the Premises Chronic nuisance laws are a recent development in a long history of states and localities using nuisance laws to hold property owners liable for criminal activity on the premises. This tradition includes the common law public nuisance doctrine and state and federal statutes aimed at protecting public morality. 1. Public Nuisance Doctrine and Property Owners. Public nuisance law is a tool wielded by the State to criminalize actions that are considered offensive to the public. The common law tort of public nuisance is broad, encompassing any unreasonable interference with a right common to the general public. 7 Public nuisance is a catch-all criminal offense that traditionally proscribed perceived threats to public health, safety, or morals. 8 Unlike the law of private nuisances, which is enforced by the individual whose rights have been disturbed, the remedy for a public nuisance lies with state action. 9 The common law of public nuisance has been codified in every state by broad criminal statutes that are interpreted to include anything that would have been a public nuisance at common law. 10 Public nuisance actions were used to control prostitution 7. Restatement (Second) of Torts 821B (2000); see also B.A. Glesner, Landlords as Cops: Tort, Nuisance and Forfeiture Standards Imposing Liability on Landlords for Crime on the Premises, 42 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 679, 716 (1992) ( Nuisance doctrines... encompass a broad range of activities and have been characterized as the great grab bag, the dust bin, of the law. ). 8. Keeton et al., Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts 618 (1984); Glesner, supra note 7, at Keeton et al., supra note 8, at 618. The remedies available to a state in a public nuisance case have traditionally included criminal prosecution and requests for injunctive relief ordering the abatement of the nuisance. Id. at Id. at 646. See, e.g., Mutschler v. City of Phoenix, 129 P.3d 71, 77 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2006) (holding that swingers club was covered by public nuisance statute since activities would have been considered public nuisance at common law); People ex rel. Gallo v. Acuna, 929 P.2d 596, 604 (Cal. 1997) (holding that public nuisance statute codified common law public nuisance doctrine and could thus be used to enjoin criminal street gang s activity). The laws at issue in these cases are broad, general statutes. See, e.g., Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann (2006) (codifying as public nuisance anything injurious to health, indecent, offensive to the senses or an obstruction to the free use of property that interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by an entire community or neighborhood or by a considerable number of persons ).
5 2008] APPLYING CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS 1185 and the use and sale of alcohol during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. 11 Today they are a popular way to restrict the use of property for illegal purposes, especially illegal drug activity. 12 There are many examples of state public nuisance laws that impose liability on landlords for activity that occurs on their premises. The Rhode Island public nuisance statute imposes criminal liability upon anyone who knowingly permit[s] any building to be used for nuisance activity while it is under his control or ownership, or who does not evict a tenant within five days of being informed of the tenant s illegal activity. 13 The penalty for aiding in the maintenance of a nuisance is a fine ranging from one hundred to one thousand dollars or a jail term of sixty days to one year. 14 In New York, a person is guilty of second degree criminal nuisance if [h]e knowingly conducts or maintains any premises, place or resort where persons gather for purposes of engaging in unlawful conduct. 15 This law has been applied to both owners and tenants who had knowledge that people were engaging in illegal activities on the premises and failed to take action to prevent the nuisance. 16 There is also federal legislation aimed at holding landlords responsible for specific illegal activities on their property. The federal crack house statute 17 was enacted in 1986 as part of wide ranging drug legislation aimed at curbing the crack-cocaine abuse of the 1980s. 18 The current statute makes it illegal to knowingly open, lease, rent, use, or maintain any place... for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance, and to knowingly and intentionally rent, lease, profit from, or make available for use... [a] place for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing or using a controlled substance. 19 The law was originally used to prosecute property owners or managers who were involved in the manufacture, storage, distribution or use of 11. Glesner, supra note 7, at Id. 13. R.I. Gen. Laws (2002). 14. Id. 15. N.Y. Penal Law (2) (McKinney 2000). 16. See, e.g., People v. Schriber, 310 N.Y.S.2d 551, (N.Y. App. Div. 1970) (upholding criminal nuisance conviction because defendant was aware of and acquiesced to drug use in apartment he rented); cf. People v. Campbell, 256 N.Y.S.2d 467, (N.Y. Crim. Ct. 1965) (dismissing prosecution against property owners who cooperated with police to address premises where 107 drug arrests occurred in prior six months) U.S.C. 856 (2000 & Supp. III 2003). 18. Michael V. Sachdev, The Party s Over: Why the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act Abridges Economic Liberties, 37 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs. 585, 595 (2004) (internal citation omitted) The second provision covers owners, lessees, agents, employees, occupants, and mortgagees. Id. The authorized penalties for violation of the crack house statute include up to twenty years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $500,000 for an individual. Id.
6 1186 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 108:1181 drugs. 20 It was amended in 2003 by the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, which added civil penalties and broadened liability to include people who rent, lease, or use the premises as well as managers or owners who profit from the drug activity. 21 These federal and state statutes show a desire on the part of lawmakers to impose liability on landlords who maintain a nuisance on their property, even when the owner is not the perpetrator of the targeted activity. 2. Charging Citizens for Municipal Services. Courts have also firmly established the rights of municipalities to charge individual citizens for consumption of public services. For example, laws imposing costs for firefighting have been upheld against constitutional challenges. In Ventura County v. Southern California Edison Co., an ordinance subjecting property owners to liability for firefighting costs for fires that spread beyond the owners property survived an equal protection challenge. 22 The court stated that the classification imposing liability only on property owners who were unable to confine the fire to their own property was reasonable, meant to stimulate precautionary measures that would prevent fires from spreading and eliminate destruction of property and danger to the public. 23 In State v. Phillips, the court considered a Minnesota law that imposed liability upon the occupant of a premises in the vicinity of forestland for all expenses incurred in fighting a fire. 24 Only occupants of land adjacent to forest areas were subject to liability. 25 The defendant, in an action to recover the cost of fighting a fire under the state act, alleged that the law violated equal protection. 26 The court rejected the contention, holding that the provisions apply alike to all occupants of lands within [the vicinity of the forest]. 27 Laws made to collect other municipal public expenditures have also survived judicial scrutiny. In Pennsylvania, which has numerous chronic 20. Reducing Americans Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002: Hearing on H.R Before the Subcomm. on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 107th Cong. 21 (2002) (statement of Graham Boyd, Director, Drug Policy Litigation Project, American Civil Liberties Union) ( The majority of cases under the statute specifically involve the operation of a literal crack house.... ). 21. Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003, Pub. L. No , 117 Stat. 691 (codified as amended at 21 U.S.C. 801, 843, 856 (2000 & Supp. III 2003)); see also Carla Spartos, Party Patrol, Village Voice, Apr. 23, 2003, at 50 (reporting commercial property owners concerns about scope of 2003 amendment) P.2d 512, (Cal. Ct. App. 1948). 23. Id.; see also People v. S. Cal. Edison Co., 128 Cal. Rptr. 697, (Cal. Ct. App. 1976) (upholding verdict for State in suit against power company for fire suppression costs) N.W. 912, 913 (Minn. 1929). 25. Id. ( The occupant of any premises upon which any unauthorized fire is burning in the vicinity of forest lands... shall promptly report the said fire.... Failure to make such report shall be deemed a violation of this act.... ). 26. Id. at Id.
7 2008] APPLYING CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS 1187 nuisance laws, 28 a court upheld an ordinance imposing the cost of collecting garbage on property owners based on how much trash the property generated. 29 The court held that the ordinance was reasonably related to the purpose of promoting the health, safety and welfare of the town s residents. 30 A Philadelphia ordinance charging citizens for use of emergency medical services (EMS) also survived legal challenge. 31 This was not a constitutional challenge, but rather a ruling on whether the ordinance constituted an unlawful tax under Pennsylvania common law. 32 The court held that the EMS fees were not revenue-raising (and thus an unlawful tax), but rather reimbursed the city for its costs in providing emergency medical services. 33 Since the EMS charges were reasonable and authorized by the city s police power to adopt regulations necessary to preserve the health, welfare and safety of its residents, the ordinance was upheld. 34 B. Examples of Chronic Nuisance Jurisdictions Chronic nuisance laws authorize a municipality to recover government expenditures on police services from the owner of the property to which the police were dispatched. While the details of the ordinances vary in each jurisdiction, 35 most chronic nuisance laws share certain features. They declare a property a chronic nuisance based on how many service calls are made within a certain time period, and the great majority do not contain a codified exception for victims of domestic violence See sources cited supra note Nat l Props., Inc. v. Borough of Macungie, 595 A.2d 742, 743 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1991). 30. Id. at Rizzo v. City of Phila., 668 A.2d 236, 238 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1995). 32. Id. at 236 ( The issue presented is whether the EMS fees charged to the public are revenue-producing and thus constitute an unlawful tax.... ). 33. Id. at 238 (finding charges reasonably proportional to cost of service since they were based on what it actually costs to operate EMS program, what other cities charged for EMS services, and what insurance companies were willing to pay). 34. Id. 35. Chronic nuisance jurisdictions include cities as large as Milwaukee, Wisconsin (population 573,358), midsize cities such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (population 312,819), and small towns such as Coaldale, Pennsylvania (population 139). All population figures can be found on U.S. Census Bureau, Population Finder, at finder.census.gov/servlet/saffpopulation?_submenuid=population_0&_sse=on (last visited Feb. 10, 2008) (on file with the Columbia Law Review). 36. At the time of publication, only Phillipsburg, N.J. had enacted an ordinance that specifically exempted domestic violence calls from the chronic nuisance law. Phillipsburg, N.J., Code ch. 441 (2005), available at frameset.asp?t=ws&cb=0098_a (on file with the Columbia Law Review) ( This chapter is not intended and shall not be interpreted to cover police calls related to domestic violence.... ). This distinction is likely due to the fact that the Phillipsburg ordinance was passed in response to disturbances at bars and other establishments that serve alcohol and was not aimed at reducing calls for service at residences. Telephone Interview with Joseph Hriczak, Chief Fin. Officer, Town of Phillipsburg, N.J., in Phillipsburg, N.J. (Jan. 25,
8 1188 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 108:1181 Most ordinances contain a list of offenses for which, if the police are called, the owner will be fined. In many jurisdictions, these chronic nuisance offenses include battery, assault, stalking, sexual assault, and discharge of a firearm. 37 Some of the ordinances authorize a chronic nuisance designation for any activity that violates state criminal law. 38 Many chronic nuisance laws exempt commercial properties, 39 and most exempt crimes committed by strangers ( stranger crime ) from the tally of offenses that will count against the owner and/or occupant. 40 Important differences in the features of chronic nuisance laws do exist. Some ordinances specifically require a finding of guilt for the underlying offense before the town charges the cost of police services, while 2007). Several chronic nuisance jurisdictions have policies stating that calls for domestic violence will not be counted as nuisance activities, but these exceptions are not part of the ordinance. Compare City of Cincinnati Police Dep t, CPD Procedure Governing Chronic Nuisance Premises Ordinance Enforcement 2 (2006), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (excluding domestic violence calls from chronic nuisance tally), with Cincinnati, Ohio, Municipal Code (2006), available at gateway.asp?pid=19996&sid=35 (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (containing no provisions that exempt such calls, and including assault, battery, and stalking as nuisance activities). 37. See, e.g., Cincinnati, Ohio, Municipal Code 761-1; Freeport, Ill., Codified Ordinances (a) (2005), available at Illinois/freeport/codifiedordinancesoffreeportillinois?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$ vid=amlegal:freeport_il (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (premising chronic nuisance liability on weapons offenses, assault or battery, sexual abuse, criminal damage to property, and more); Green Bay, Wis., Code (2006), available at green-bay.wi.us/geninfo/law/law_ordinance.html (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (including harassment, battery, trespass, and weapons violations in chronic nuisance code); Milwaukee, Wis., Code (2007), available at code/volume1/ch80.pdf (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (defining nuisance activity to include harassment, battery, criminal trespass, crimes involving illegal possession of firearm, discharge of firearm, and more). 38. See, e.g., Pittsburgh, Pa., Code of Ordinances (effective Feb. 15, 2005), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (including all felonies and misdemeanors under state law as chronic nuisance offenses); Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Code of Ordinances 7-237(e) (adopted Feb. 24, 2005), available at &sid=38 (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (declaring any misdemeanor or felony arrest based on state or federal criminal law the basis for immediate occupant eviction proceedings ). 39. See, e.g., Pittsburgh, Pa., Code of Ordinances (restricting chronic nuisance code to residentially zoned properties); Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Code of Ordinances 7-236, (imposing chronic nuisance abatement duties on owners and occupants of residential properties). 40. See, e.g., Cincinnati, Ohio, Municipal Code (premising chronic nuisance liability on activities of owners, operators, occupants, or persons associated with a premises ); Milwaukee, Wis., Code (c) (defining nuisance activity as any of the enumerated criminal activities engaged in by the owner, operator, manager, resident, occupant guest, visitor, patron or employe [sic] or agent ); Pittsburgh, Pa., Code of Ordinances (restricting infractions to those committed by the owner(s), operator(s), tenant(s), occupant(s) or their invitee(s) ).
9 2008] APPLYING CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS 1189 other chronic nuisance laws do not require that the police response result in an arrest or conviction. 41 All chronic nuisance laws impose civil liability for failure to abate the nuisance, but several also include provisions imposing incarceration on owners of chronic nuisance properties, either as a punishment for maintaining a chronic nuisance or as a penalty for defaulting on the police costs. 42 Some chronic nuisance codes charge the property owner a flat fee, while other ordinances impose charges based on the time spent on the call for service Compare Clackamas County, Or., Code ch (F)(2) (2002), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (stating that nuisance finding must be observed by Sheriff or designee or based on determination by Sheriff or designee that the alleged activity did occur), and York, Pa., Code art (2007), available at % %20Codified%20Ordinances/Part%2017%20-%20Building%20&%20 Housing.pdf (on file with the Columbia Law Review) ( [A] conviction for an offense in a court of competent jurisdiction shall not be required.... ), with Coaldale, Pa., Ordinance of the Borough of Coaldale Establishing Reimbursement to the Borough of Coaldale for Costs, Expenses, and Fees Associated with the Coaldale Borough Police Department (Mar. 14, 2006) (requiring judicial determination that ordinance was violated), and Wilkes- Barre, Pa., Code of Ordinances ( In order for such disruptive conduct to constitute an offense under this article, a citation or criminal complaint must be issued by the police and successfully prosecuted or a guilty plea entered before a district justice. ). 42. See, e.g., Cincinnati, Ohio, Municipal Code 761-7(a) (making first violation of chronic nuisance code a misdemeanor of the fourth degree and subsequent violations third degree misdemeanors); Milwaukee, Wis., Code (allowing for imprisonment upon default of payments); Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Code of Ordinances (imposing fine and/or thirty days imprisonment for first violation); York, Pa., Code art (providing for maximum of six months incarceration for defaulting on chronic nuisance code costs); Matthew Leblanc, Proposed City Nuisance Ordinances Taking Shape, Columbia Daily Trib. (Columbia, Mo.), Sept. 12, 2006, at 1 (describing proposed chronic nuisance code in Columbia, Missouri, that imposes maximum of three months incarceration for violations). 43. Compare Phillipsburg, N.J., Code ch. 441 (adopted Mar. 1, 2005), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (imposing flat fee), with Coaldale, Pa., Ordinance of the Borough of Coaldale Establishing Reimbursement to the Borough of Coaldale for Costs, Expenses, and Fees Associated with the Coaldale Borough Police Department (imposing fees based on hourly rate plus any incidental costs, fees or expenses in responding to call), and Borowski, Officials Back Fines, supra note 5 ( [T]he cost would vary depending on the severity of the reported incident and how many officers would have to respond to it. ). In Phillipsburg, the fee schedule is $250 for the first call after nuisance designation, $500 after accumulating another set of three nuisance calls, and $750 for the next set. Telephone Interview with Joseph Hriczak, supra note 36. Cincinnati has a more calibrated and elaborate fine system an owner is charged for the time the city employees spend responding: 1/10th hour (or six minutes) for the use of the 911 operator (at 911 operator rate of pay), 1/10th hour for dispatcher s time (at dispatcher s rate of pay), and when the police arrive on the scene, the City begins to charge for each responding police officer s time, in six minute increments at the police officer s rate of pay. Telephone Interview with Lieutenant David Fink, supra note 5. In addition, each chronic nuisance fine includes a charge for the administrative costs the owner is billed for thirty minutes of the district commander s time. Id. In other jurisdictions, the owner is charged for the police time starting the moment the dispatcher puts out the call for service, as opposed to calculating the charges based on when the officer arrives to help. Id.
10 1190 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 108:1181 Police departments consider chronic nuisance codes a helpful tool to maintain the quality of life in a community and to provide incentives for preventing criminal activity. 44 Lieutenant David Fink, Lieutenant in Charge of Planning at the Cincinnati Police Department, notes several goals of the Cincinnati Police in enforcing the chronic nuisance code: 1) getting the attention of property owners and letting them know they must be accountable for their property; 2) encouraging more active participation among landlords in managing their property; and 3) improving the quality of life for tenants. 45 He describes it as a win-win situation: Property owners have a new tool in maintaining their rental rates (since the building will presumably be a more pleasant place to live), they have a better quality of tenant, and there will be less damage to the property. 46 Meanwhile, police can expect a reduction in calls for service, a possible reduction in criminal activity, and have an opportunity to build bridges with members of the community, including local property owners and tenants Pittsburgh s Chronic Nuisance Ordinance. Pittsburgh s chronic nuisance ordinance is fairly representative of these laws. The Pittsburgh ordinance defines a nuisance property as: [A]ny residentially zoned property with five (5) or fewer units that generates at least a combined three (3) or more citations from police and inspections services for any enumerated infraction on three (3) separate occasions within any sixty-day period or any residentially zoned property with more than five (5) units that generates at least a combined three (3) citations from one (1) unit or five (5) citations from the entire building from police and inspection services for any enumerated infraction on separate occasions within any sixty-day period. 48 Enumerated infractions include offenses related to noise control, weed and grass maintenance, pets, as well as any offense designated a misdemeanor or felony under state law. 49 The law only authorizes fines when the crime is committed by an owner, tenant, occupant, or an invitee. 50 This has the effect of exempting victims of crimes from the chronic nuisance code when the perpetrator is a stranger, but not when the perpetrator is a spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend. After the requisite number of enumerated offenses have occurred, the owner is notified by letter that the property has been designated a 44. Telephone Interview with Lieutenant David Fink, supra note Id. 46. Id. 47. Id. 48. Pittsburgh, Pa., Code of Ordinances (d) (effective Feb. 15, 2005), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review). 49. Id Id.
11 2008] APPLYING CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS 1191 nuisance. 51 The letter gives the owner ten days to notify the Director of Public Safety, in writing, of the owner s intent to appeal or to provide a detailed proposal to abate the activities occurring at the property. 52 The Director of Public Safety has ten days to either approve or deny the proposal. 53 If another enumerated infraction occurs after the property has been designated a nuisance, and the approved abatement plan has not been completed, the Director of Public Safety will impose the cost of abatement of the enumerated infraction on the property owner. 54 The ordinance authorizes the Director of Public Safety to establish the costs charged for each offense. 55 The ordinance creates a liability exception if a landlord evicts the tenant using police services: Any citation issued to a tenant who is already in the process of being evicted, shall not count towards the number of citations necessary to e [sic] deemed a nuisance property if the property owner can prove that an eviction action has been commenced in a court of law and if the property owner is actively prosecuting said eviction action against the nuisance tenant. 56 Therefore, if a landlord has reason to believe that a tenant has used or will need police service, the landlord can protect him or herself from the costs imposed under this ordinance by beginning eviction proceedings against the tenant. 2. Chronic Nuisance in Coaldale, Pennsylvania. In Coaldale, Pennsylvania, the Borough Council unanimously passed a chronic nuisance ordinance on March 14, The stated purpose of the ordinance is to place the burden of costs associated with providing police services on those persons who unnecessarily cause increased responses or costs associated with the Police Department. 58 In addition to imposing fines based on what the borough considers to be too many calls for service, the Coaldale ordinance allows the government to fine victims who do not assist in the prosecution of the offender: 51. Id Id (e)(iv). 53. Id (e)(iv)(b). 54. Id (f). 55. Id Id (b). 57. Coaldale, Pa., Ordinance of the Borough of Coaldale Establishing Reimbursement to the Borough of Coaldale for Costs, Expenses, and Fees Associated with the Coaldale Borough Police Department (Mar. 14, 2006); see also Funk, supra note 5 (noting that Council passed chronic nuisance law unanimously). 58. Coaldale, Pa., Ordinance of the Borough of Coaldale Establishing Reimbursement to the Borough of Coaldale for Costs, Expenses, and Fees Associated with the Coaldale Borough Police Department.
12 1192 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 108:1181 Any Requestor who makes a Request for Response which causes a Response and subsequently results in the withdrawing of charges initiated as a result of the Response or any Requestor who unreasonably makes multiple Requests for Response shall be charged the cost of the Response as set forth in Section 3 of this Ordinance. 59 The ordinance authorizes a fine plus the costs or expenses associated with that particular police response, including the hourly rate of the police officer. 60 Of all the ordinances examined in this Note, the Coaldale law seems to be the one most explicitly aimed at victims of domestic violence. The ordinance was deemed necessary because of a large number of calls that result in the caller dropping or refusing to press charges. 61 Richard Marek, chairman of the Borough Council s Police Committee, described how police officers can invest a lot of time into calls, mostly domestic situations, and the complainant often refuses to press charges or testify in court, thus wasting a police officer s time. 62 The Coaldale ordinance is different from other chronic nuisance codes in that it does not have a set number of calls for service that the property must exceed before the owner is fined. Instead, the law authorizes fines when people unreasonably make multiple calls. 63 The ordinance does not define multiple or unreasonable. The public discussion of the code was framed around the issue of repeat victims who waste police resources. 64 One local reporter, in support of the ordinance, noted: It s always disheartening for police officers to get calls that a boyfriend is beating up a girlfriend, and then the girlfriend drops the charges within a few days. It s more frustrating when the offenders repeat the process over and over.... In addition, it s a big waste of taxpayers dollars when police have to respond to nuisance calls and then to court without the benefit of cooperation from those who complained in the first place. 65 In addition, both the Solicitor and the Chair of the Council Police Committee publicly stated that their intent in supporting the chronic nuisance law was to target victims of domestic violence who refuse to follow through with the prosecution of their partner Id. 2(a). 60. Id. 3 4; see also Funk, supra note 5 (reporting the amount charged will be the hourly rate of the officer and other costs or expenses ). 61. Funk, supra note Id. 63. Coaldale, Pa., Ordinance of the Borough of Coaldale Establishing Reimbursement to the Borough of Coaldale for Costs, Expenses, and Fees Associated with the Coaldale Borough Police Department 2(a). 64. Ron Gower, Police Calls: Responsibility Will Be Required in Coaldale, Times News, Mar. 13, 2006, at Id. 66. Funk, supra note 5.
13 2008] APPLYING CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS Milwaukee s Chronic Nuisance Law. Milwaukee s chronic nuisance ordinance is structured similarly to Pittsburgh s ordinance. The ordinance states that any property that has generated three or more calls for service in thirty days or two in one year for certain crimes, including crimes involving violence or illegal possession of a firearm, has received more than the level of general and adequate police service and is a nuisance. 67 The city sends the owner a notice, upon which the owner can either appeal or submit a plan to abate the nuisance. 68 If another nuisance activity occurs on the property and the plan to abate the nuisance has not been completed, the city will charge the owner for the cost of the police services. 69 Milwaukee enacted its ordinance in In 2004, the city conducted a study to evaluate the implementation of the nuisance code. 70 The study revealed that 364 notices were sent between July 5, 2001 and July 19, 2004, and that 81.6% of owners who received a letter abated the nuisance. 71 Those owners were never charged for police services. Of the 18.4% of owners the city did charge, 25% were charged only once, meaning that the nuisance was abated after a total of four calls for service. 72 These numbers show that most owners did abate the nuisance after the city declared the property a nuisance and threatened to charge them for each police call, or after the first charge. Between 2001 and 2004, Milwaukee issued $22,000 in chronic nuisance fines. 73 Most of the properties affected by the law were buildings that housed two or more families. Out of the 364 letters that the city sent, 13% went to single family homes, 22% went to two-family homes, 49% were sent to multifamily properties, and 16% went to nonresidential properties (bars, recreational properties, hotels). 74 Of the properties that received ten or more charges under the nuisance ordinance, 93% were multifamily buildings. 75 The numbers illustrate that owners of multifamily properties were the least likely to comply with the chronic nuisance law by abating the nuisance Milwaukee, Wis., Code 80-10(1) (2) (2007), available at cctv25.milwaukee.gov/code/volume1/ch80.pdf (on file with the Columbia Law Review). 68. Id (3)(a) (c). 69. Id (3)(d). 70. Heidi Weed, Milwaukee Police Department & DNS Public Policy Review Chronic Nuisance Code, Final Report (2004) (on file with the Columbia Law Review). 71. Id. at Id. 73. Diedrich, supra note Weed, supra note 70, at Id. 76. There are several possible explanations for this. It could be that the landlords were just unable to control the tenants behavior despite efforts to do so. The number could also point to another plausible explanation: that paying for the police services to the building was less expensive than evicting the tenant and trying to fill a newly vacant unit. The numbers also fail to show whether the calls were for the same tenants. It could be that
14 1194 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 108:1181 The study then focused on forty-six properties that had received warning letters in March or April of The calls were commonly for noise, battery, fights, and domestic violence. 77 The data suggested no correlation between the types of calls and the effectiveness of the nuisance ordinance. 78 The City concluded based on these results that the chronic nuisance ordinance was effective in getting property owners to abate nuisances on their property without further police intervention. 79 These findings raise serious questions about the tactics the landlords had to employ. The study did not reveal the methods landlords used to abate the nuisance. However, it is likely that the most (and probably only) effective way for a landlord to prevent police visits to the property is to evict, or threaten to evict, the tenants who require the police service. This suspicion is confirmed by official statements of local governments with chronic nuisance laws. The law in Kankakee, Illinois is specifically aimed at the large number of rental properties in the jurisdiction, and the findings published in a report about their ordinance states that compliance with the chronic nuisance code often translates into the eviction of the troublesome tenant by the owner. 80 In Lakewood, Ohio, City Councilman Kevin Butler explained that while the chronic nuisance ordinance does not call for landlords to evict tenants; as a practicality, however, that would be the most likely way a landlord would abate the problem of an unruly tenant once the landlord receives a nuisance notice from the city. 81 the landlord attempted to comply with the code by evicting the tenants who required police services and that the new batch of residents still had reasons to call the police. 77. Weed, supra note 70, at Id. at Id. at Karen S. Levy McCanna, Specialized Unit Takes a Problem-Solving Approach to Crime in Kankakee, On Good Authority (Ill. Crim. Just. Info. Authority, Chi., Ill.), Dec. 2000, at 3; see also Discussion Regarding Specific Departmental Budgets: Special Meeting of the City Council of Peoria, Ill (Sept. 26, 2006) (briefing by Randy Ray, Corporations Counsel of Peoria), available at (follow 2006 SEP 26 SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MINUTES hyperlink) (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (noting that property owner[s] should quickly resolve the problem or evict the tenant promptly ); Telephone Interview with Elizabeth Brown, Executive Director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal, in Cincinnati, Ohio (Jan. 30, 2007) (expressing concern over potential evictions resulting from landlords perception that to comply they must evict regardless of accuracy of such perceptions). Even victims of abuse who have taken steps to separate from the batterer or use the legal protection of a restraining order may still need police services, since abusers often do not abide by victims wishes for no contact. See infra notes 119, 126, 127 and accompanying text (describing inability of victim to ensure that further abuse will not occur, despite taking such actions as leaving relationship or getting restraining order). 81. Kevin Butler, Criminal Activity Nuisance Ordinance, The Lakewood Observer Observation Deck, Aug. 28, 2007, at p=32124&sid= fad8cf39fbb44d6bb (on file with the Columbia Law Review).
15 2008] APPLYING CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS 1195 Chronic nuisance laws do more than provide incentives to evict tenants who require police service. As a result of the potential for civil and criminal liability, chronic nuisance laws encourage landlords to closely screen applicants and reject potential tenants on the basis that they might cause police responses to the property. 82 II. THE GENDERED IMPACT OF CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS Chronic nuisance laws attempt to recoup police expenses for responses to criminal activity that occurs in the home. Part II examines why this form of legislation particularly affects victims of domestic violence. Part II.A uses statistical data to show that a policy aimed at crimes in the home will cover most domestic violence offenses, while not reaching most stranger crimes. Furthermore, since victims of domestic violence are primarily women, such a policy has a harsher impact on women than men. This Part shows the barriers that victims of violence in the home already face in accessing housing and demonstrates how chronic nuisance laws exacerbate these in a dangerous way. Part II.B looks at other aspects of the government s response to domestic violence and explains why chronic nuisance laws are incompatible with, and in some cases, contradict policies aimed at violence against women. A. Applying Chronic Nuisance Laws to Domestic Violence Has Disproportionate Impact on Women Most domestic violence acts occur at home. Compare, for example, rates of nonfatal violent crimes reported between 1998 and Only 16.9% of violent acts committed by strangers occurred at or near the residence of the victim. 83 By comparison, 78.1% of violent crimes committed by spouses occurred where the victim lived, as did 64% of violent crimes perpetrated by boyfriends or girlfriends. 84 Additionally, only 8.4% of family violence occurred in a public place (including commercial properties such as bars and restaurants), while 66.3% of stranger crime occurred in a public place. 85 Clearly, any policy or legislation that is targeted at criminal activity occurring in the home will affect most, if not all, domestic violence victims. 82. See, e.g., Spencer Wells, Coal. on Homelessness and Hous. in Ohio, Cities Begin to Hold Landlords Accountable for Tenant Social Behavior, available at cohhio.org/pdf/wells_report_citylandlord.pdf (last visited Mar. 30, 2008) (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (explaining how chronic nuisance law was used to compel landlords to use more diligence in screening tenants ); Neighborhood Officers, Madison Police Dep t W. District Newsletter (Madison Police Dep t, Madison, Wis.), Mar. 2007, at 2 (noting chronic nuisance law will impact landlords who use irresponsible screening ). 83. Matthew R. Durose et al., Department of Justice Family Violence Statistics: Including Statistics on Strangers and Acquaintances 9 tbl.2.2 (2005). 84. Id. 85. Id.
16 1196 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 108:1181 Women constitute the overwhelming majority of domestic violence victims, representing 84.3% of spousal abuse victims and 85.9% of the victims of dating violence. 86 Women are five times more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence. 87 In fact, the single strongest identifiable risk factor for becoming a victim [of intimate partner violence] is being female. 88 Because a great majority of acts of domestic violence occur at home, which is not true of other crimes, and chronic nuisance laws charge only for the police response to crimes at home, these laws have the potential to affect domestic violence crimes more than stranger crimes. In addition, since victims of domestic violence offenses are overwhelmingly women, the application of chronic nuisance laws to domestic violence offenses disproportionately burdens women Housing Barriers for Victims of Domestic Violence. Physical violence is just one tactic that makes up part of a larger system of abuse batterers use to exercise power over their partners. 90 The methods that batterers use to assert control have been compared to the tactics used against hostages, political prisoners, and survivors of concentration camps. 91 In addition to violence and the threat of violence, many batterers use isolation 86. Id. at 10. See also Majority Staff of S. Comm. on the Judiciary, 102d Cong., Violence Against Women: A Week in the Life of America 3 (Comm. Print 1992) (noting that experts estimate that a woman has between a 1-in-3 and a 1-in-5 chance of being physically assaulted by a partner or ex-partner during her lifetime and Surgeon General s warning that violence was the No. 1 public health risk to adult women in the United States ); Ass n of Trial Lawyers of Am. et al., Preventing Violence to Women: Integrating the Health and Legal Communities 1 (1993) [hereinafter Preventing Violence to Women] ( A woman is at highest risk of attack not from a stranger, but from a man... with whom she has an intimate relationship. ). 87. Lenora M. Lapidus, Doubly Victimized: Housing Discrimination Against Victims of Domestic Violence, 11 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol y & L. 377, 381 (2003) (citing Department of Justice findings); see also K.J. Wilson, When Violence Begins at Home: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Ending Domestic Abuse 8 (1997) (noting that 95% of domestic violence is committed by men against women). 88. Courtney N. Esposito, Communities Can Help Victims Become Survivors, The Times (Trenton, N.J.), Jan. 6, 2008, at A The legal ramifications of this disproportionate effect will be explored in Part III. 90. Nat l Ctr. on Domestic & Sexual Violence, Power and Control Wheel, available at (last visited Feb. 10, 2008) (on file with the Columbia Law Review) [hereinafter Power and Control Wheel]; see also Ann Jones & Susan Schechter, When Love Goes Wrong 13 (1992) (defining abuse as a pattern of coercive control that one person exercises over another in order to dominate and get his way ); James Ptacek, Battered Women in the Courtroom 8 10 (1999) (describing controlling techniques beyond physical attack); Wilson, supra note 87, at (noting that domestic violence encompasses economic abuse, sexual abuse, threats, intimidation, and isolation). 91. Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery 121 (1997) (describing symptoms which can affect those subjected to totalitarian control over a prolonged period, and providing as examples hostages, prisoners of war, concentration-camp survivors, survivors of some religious cults and survivors of domestic battering ); Wilson, supra note 87, at 17 (noting, with approval, Herman s work).
17 2008] APPLYING CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS 1197 and economic abuse to further their control in the relationship. 92 Economic abuse can include sabotaging the victim s efforts to get or keep a job, denying her access to family income, and stealing from the victim. 93 This often leaves victims with few social and economic resources to draw upon when they attempt to leave the abuser. Women fleeing abusers may have little or no access to money and very few friends or family members It is not only a lack of financial resources and social support that may prevent victims from leaving an abusive home. Leaving may be dangerous: Strange though it may seem staying can be safer than leaving, at least until a strong and reliable network is established There is an intimate link between abuse in the home and homelessness in this country. Fifty percent of all homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence. 96 Many victims lack the resources required to find alternative housing. 97 The result is that battered women have reported staying in abusive relationships because they had no other housing options. 98 In addition to the economic realities that make it difficult to get housing, battered women face both individual discrimination by landlords based on their status as victims and policies that serve to deny them housing based on the violence perpetrated against them. A recent national study found that domestic violence victims are frequently denied housing simply because they are victims. 99 The study revealed that denials occurred because a victim s former residence was a domestic violence shelter, a victim had a civil order of protection against an abuser, police had responded to a victim s prior residence, and a landlord discovered from a victim s previous landlord that she had been abused by her part- 92. Power and Control Wheel, supra note 90; see also Ptacek, supra note 90, at 9 (explaining that battering is characterized by a web of coercive tactics... including physical and sexual violence, threats of violence, psychological abuse, and manipulation of economic resources ). 93. Jones & Schechter, supra note 90, at 20; Power and Control Wheel, supra note ACLU Women s Rights Project, Domestic Violence and Homelessness Fact Sheet 1 (2008), available at pdf (on file with the Columbia Law Review). 95. Esposito, supra note Wilson, supra note 87, at For a discussion of the economic abuse and social isolation that make it difficult for victims to gain economic independence and access housing, see supra notes and accompanying text. 98. ACLU Women s Rights Project, supra note 94, at 1. In 2003, 46% of homeless women in Minnesota reported that they had stayed in an abusive relationship in the past because they had nowhere else to go. Id. In Fargo, North Dakota, 44% of homeless women had stayed with their abuser because they had no other housing options. Id. 99. Nat l L. Ctr. on Homelessness & Poverty & Nat l Network to End Domestic Violence, Lost Housing, Lost Safety: Survivors of Domestic Violence Experience Housing Denials and Evictions Across the Country 3 (2007) [hereinafter Lost Housing, Lost Safety]. The study analyzed seventy-six surveys from legal and social services providers around the country. Id. at 2.
18 1198 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 108:1181 ner. 100 For instance, one landlord in Wichita, Kansas denied a rental application from a survivor of abuse, even though her batterer was incarcerated and she had a restraining order against him. 101 The landlord reasoned that he did not want domestic violence victims in his apartments because abusers often found them and caused property damage. 102 Another study reported that 67% of domestic violence service providers listed discrimination by landlords as a significant obstacle for victims. 103 In addition to denying tenancy applications, landlords have evicted victims solely because of the abuse perpetrated against them. 104 One landlord described the rationale for evicting a woman whose abuser broke down her door and sexually assaulted her: Even though she was not responsible for the violence, it was easier to evict her, since her presence created all the problems. 105 Zero-tolerance or one-strike policies are also used to evict victims based on their status as survivors of domestic violence. These are policies or lease provisions that allow a landlord to evict a tenant for any criminal activity or disturbance at the residence. 106 These policies have been wielded by landlords to evict victims after an incident of violence, often relying on the justification that the police presence, noise, or general disturbance that accompanied the attack threatened the peaceful enjoyment of the neighbors. 107 These practices were addressed by the 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and it is no longer lawful to apply these policies to domestic violence victims in subsi Id. at Id. at Id Press Release, Office of the N.Y. State Att y Gen., Attorney General Renews Call for Legislation to Bar Housing Discrimination Against Victims of Domestic Violence (Apr. 29, 2003), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review); see also Joe Lamport, Discrimination in Housing Is Rampant, Gotham Gazette (N.Y.), June 2005, at /10/1434 (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (describing how landlords hold victims responsible for violence or reject applications from prospective tenants because they are victims of domestic violence) Lost Housing, Lost Safety, supra note 99, at Id. at For examples of zero-tolerance policies and lease provisions, see, e.g., Bouley v. Young-Sabourin, 394 F. Supp. 2d 675, 677 (D. Vt. 2005) ( Tenant will not use or allow said premises to be used for unlawful purposes, in any noisy, boisterous, or any other manner offensive to any other occupant in the building. ); Charge of Discrimination, Alvera v. C.B.M. Group, Inc., HUD ALJ No (U.S. Dep t of Hous. & Urban Dev., Portland, Or., Apr. 16, 2001) ( You, someone in your control, or your pet, has seriously threatened immediately to inflict personal injury, or has inflicted substantial personal injury upon the landlord or other tenants. ) See, e.g., Bouley, 394 F. Supp. 2d at 677; Charge of Discrimination, Alvera, HUD ALJ No ; Lost Housing, Lost Safety, supra note 99, at 7 9.
19 2008] APPLYING CHRONIC NUISANCE LAWS 1199 dized housing. 108 However, use of these lease provisions and policies in nonsubsidized (private) housing is not covered by VAWA. At least one district court has recognized such lease provisions as unlawful sex discrimination when applied to victims of domestic violence. In Bouley v. Young-Sabourin, the plaintiff was evicted after her husband assaulted her in their home. 109 Her lease contained a clause mandating that the tenant not allow unlawful activities on the premises. 110 The case was settled after the court recognized Bouley s claim of disparate treatment as a prima facie case of sex discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act Housing for Victims of Domestic Violence in Chronic Nuisance Jurisdictions. Chronic nuisance laws exacerbate the housing dilemma that victims of abuse face. For victims who own their own homes and are fined directly for the cost of the police services, this additional financial strain can intensify the feeling of being trapped by a lack of resources. This is especially true in light of the fact that a Department of Justice study showed that [w]omen living in households with lower annual household incomes experienced intimate partner violence at significantly higher rates than women in households with higher annual incomes. 112 The people most likely to be affected by violence in the home are also the least able to afford these fines. An inability to reimburse the city for the police services can have serious consequences. Many of the ordinances state that unpaid balances will become liens on the property, 113 at least 108. See infra Part III.A Bouley, 394 F. Supp. 2d. at Id Id.; see also Danielle Pelfrey Duryea, Court Recognizes Domestic Violence Survivor s Fair Housing Challenge to Eviction, 35 Housing L. Bull. 181, 181 (2005) (noting that parties reached settlement after court ruled Bouley s claim could proceed) Callie Marie Rennison & Sarah Welchans, U.S. Dep t of Justice, Intimate Partner Violence 4 (2000), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review); see also Ptacek, supra note 90, at (noting that while domestic violence occurs at all income levels, economic deprivation places women at greater risk for battering ) See, e.g., Coaldale, Pa., Ordinance of the Borough of Coaldale Establishing Reimbursement to the Borough of Coaldale for Costs, Expenses, and Fees Associated with the Coaldale Borough Police Department 4(c) (Mar. 14, 2006) (dictating that failure to pay can result in municipal lien against property); Kankakee, Ill., Code 24-36(d) (passed Aug. 19, 1996), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (authorizing lien against property under chronic nuisance code); Pittsburgh, Pa., Code of Ordinances (effective Feb. 15, 2005), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review) ( Any cost imposed upon the Property Owner shall constitute a lien against the property. ).
20 1200 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 108:1181 one city charges interest on unpaid balances, 114 and victims who own their homes face incarceration under chronic nuisance laws. 115 Even victims fined directly under the chronic nuisance codes who live in households with a higher income may not have the financial resources to pay for police services. A batterer, in furtherance of his control over the victim, may engage in tactics such as not allowing his partner access to the family income, sabotaging her efforts to get or keep a job, limiting her to an allowance, or taking her money. 116 Chronic nuisance laws also have a devastating effect on victims of domestic violence living in rental housing. The ordinances lead to eviction of domestic violence victims in several ways. Some of the laws explicitly require the landlord to evict the occupant of a unit after the occupant meets the requisite number of police calls. 117 Others just require the landlord to abate the nuisance, without explicitly specifying eviction as the way to abate it. 118 However, the only way for a landlord to completely ensure that the police will not be called back to that home at his or her expense is to evict the victim. Requiring a victim to get an order of protection or separate from the abuser will not ensure that the police will not be needed to respond to persistent and controlling abusers who try to reassert their power over the victim by violating restraining orders or returning after having been told to leave. 119 Therefore, to avoid paying for police services under the chronic nuisance codes, the landlord must evict the victim See Coaldale, Pa., Ordinance of the Borough of Coaldale Establishing Reimbursement to the Borough of Coaldale for Costs, Expenses, and Fees Associated with the Coaldale Borough Police Department 4(d) (charging 6% interest on unpaid balance) See sources cited supra note See supra notes and accompanying text See, e.g., Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Code of Ordinances 7-236(i)(1) (adopted Feb. 24, 2005), available at (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (stating that code enforcement officer shall direct the owner to evict the occupant who violated the ordinance after the third disruptive conduct violation ); M. J. Place, Landlords, County to Fight Rental Fee, Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, Apr. 9, 2003, at E5 (describing Wilmerding, Pennsylvania law which requires eviction if police are called to same unit more than once a year) See, e.g., Milwaukee, Wis., Code ch (2007), available at milwaukee.gov/code/volume1/ch80.pdf (on file with the Columbia Law Review) (providing owners will be charged with costs associated with abating the violations at premises at which nuisance activities chronically occur ); Pittsburgh, Pa., Code of Ordinances (b) (stating that cost of abatement will be charged to owners) See, e.g., Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748, (2005) (describing repeated calls for police service when plaintiff s husband violated her order of protection before murdering their children and committing suicide); Jones & Schechter, supra note 90, at 228 ( Once you have a protection order, your partner may abide by it and leave you alone. Or he may not. ); Preventing Violence to Women, supra note 86, at 9 12 (describing one batterer s repeated violations of restraining orders before eventually murdering his girlfriend who had an active restraining order against him); Wilson, supra note 87, at 78 (citing 1991 study of temporary and permanent orders of protection showing that 60% of victims reported at least one violation of restraining order to police).
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